Climate Change and Disease: A Dangerous Combination
One of the great challenges that come with climate change is in human health. This is how the climate crisis affects disease.
LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero
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Among the many things that are at stake due to climate change, human health is one of the most notorious emergencies and one that has the greatest impact at the international level. It is enough to review the data from the World Health Organization, which ensures that around 7 million people die each year in the world due to air pollution. However, this is not the only cause that impacts human health.
Malaria is already spreading due to global warming
Georgetown University Medical Center conducted research using data from the past 120 years to show how the mosquitoes that transmit malaria in Africa, also known as the Anopheles mosquito, have spread deeper into the southern part of the continent, that is, towards the coldest areas.
According to the experts, this phenomenon would be the reason malaria cases are increasing in these regions and in others where the disease had not been seen with such potency; In 2020, 241 million infections and 627,000 deaths were registered globally, after a 33% decrease had been estimated for 2011 in the 2000s. The researchers warn that as climate change progresses, the areas suitable for development of mosquitoes, and in that order of ideas for the spread of malaria, will be more and more. It is even expected that these animals can reach mountainous Amazons that are currently very cold and do not allow transmission. But why does climate change play such an important role in the spread of this disease?
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Climate change and its relationship with diseases
The development of animals, their behaviors, and routines depend, to a large extent, on the conditions of their ecosystem. In this order of ideas, ecosystems are not only made up of plant matter, but also of microbes, bacteria, fungi and other organisms that regulate said environments and their coexistence. Climate change directly affects the conditions of these ecosystems and, consequently, affects all the organisms that are part of it. With climate change, the temperature of the planet earth increases, generating meteorological phenomena that facilitate the spread of diseases that are transmitted by this type of animal.
Some pathogen-borne diseases that we see on the rise are dengue fever, asthma, Ebola, yellow fever, tuberculosis, cholera, and even trachoma, which can lead to blindness. All these diseases and their increase in the last 50 years is directly related to lack of drinking water, heat waves and floods, all consequences of climate change. Of course, the most vulnerable communities are those who face this increase in diseases and those who have the least chance of surviving in the face of them, exposing the social problems that are impacting the health system around the world.
Although the relationship between climate change and diseases that affect human health is clear, there are still many gaps when trying to quantify this phenomenon. Therefore, when facing it, international regulatory policies are necessary to help mitigate the consequences that we see today and those that we will see in the very near future. It is necessary to anticipate and not wait for crises to happen, COVID-19 has left great lessons in this regard.